By Dean Edgar
I am very conscious of the fact that most of the news I report on a monthly basis is always bad news, so there I was on Saturday morning at the end of January watching Simona Halep playing in the Final of the Australian Open, hoping that she will win her first Grand Slam tournament of her career. However it was not to be, played 3 finals, lost 3 finals. The conditions were not brilliant as the temperature reached 40C plus at times. Hopefully her luck will improve, and she will win a Grand Slam this year.
And so to the continuing soap opera that is the present PSD government, incumbent prime minister, Mihai Tudose was unceremoniously dumped by the de facto boss Liviu Dragnea for not doing as he was told. Mr Tudose actually went against party policy and was eventually pushed out with a vote of no confidence. He had only been “in charge” for just over 6 months.
So this was Monday night. The very next day, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped in with two Jumbo Jets worth of Japanese businessmen to further cement business links between the two governments, but unfortunately there was no one there to meet him. He ended up having a stroll around the Village museum. What an absolute diplomatic mess. A couple of days later when he was about to leave from Otopeni someone had lost the car park token and there was a fine of 500 Ron to pay. Why the hell was the Japanese PM using the public car park? The final humiliation was that he couldn’t use the VIP lounge as there was a private party for a TAROM director being held in the lounge. Many Romanians went on to social media apologising for this huge diplomatic faux pas. However he did meet with President Iohannis and did confirm that Romanians who want to visit Japan will now no longer need a visa. So not all bad then…
With Tudose gone, a new Prime Minister was needed. The candidate list of willing puppets is dwindling as several influential PSD members – such as labour minister Lia Olguta Vasilescu, Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea, and economy minister Paul Stanescu – said they didn’t want this position. Then to the surprise of most people, the party put forward the name of Viorica Dancila, an MEP. Not many people had heard of her but it’s no surprise as to why she was proposed, as she is from Rosiorii de Vede, in Romania’s Teleorman county, where PSD leader Liviu Dragnea comes from. She was also a woodwork teacher in a local school. Someone, I would say, perfectly suited to running a country. President Klaus Iohannis then came in for a bit of stick as he approved the nomination. He was in a bit of a spot but he played the PSD at their own game. It’s patently obvious to me at least that she is “not suitable for purpose” so maybe after a few months early elections might happen, and maybe, just maybe, the not so vocal opposition might become more vocal and actually win a few more seats.
On Saturday 20th over 70,000 people gathered at Universitate peaceably to demonstrate against the government, and the Jandarmerie were on hand to keep an eye on the proceedings. Things got a little heated when the boys in blue tried to stop demonstrators from leaving the underpass. The gentleman in the middle of photo was photographed punching anyone that got in his way. Age was not a prerequisite for his boxing abilities, as he was seen striking an old age pensioner. That will teach the demonstrators. It is good to see though, that the spirit of the electorate has not been squashed. Long may they continue to voice their anger at the PSD and their self serving manipulation of the country’s corruption laws.
It is good to see that the EU is now getting involved. In a joint statement, the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the first vice-president of the EC Frans Timmermans, say they are following “with concern” the latest developments in Romania.
“The independence of Romania’s judicial system and its capacity to fight corruption effectively are essential cornerstones of a strong Romania in the European Union.” They then went on to say: “The Commission calls on the Romanian Parliament to rethink the course of action proposed, to open up the debate in line with the Commission’s recommendations and to build a broad consensus on the way forward. The Commission reiterates its readiness to cooperate with and support the Romanian authorities in this process.”
Good to hear, but then the dynamic duo, Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the heads of the two chambers of Parliament said in a letter submitted to the EC leadership that they are concerned about the “incorrect manner” in which EU officials were informed “regarding the transparency of the debate surrounding the justice laws in Romania”. They then claimed that there was an extensive debate on the amendments to the justice laws. They added that the Constitutional Court will make a ruling on the amendments. Beggars belief when it has been reported many times that debate didn’t happen due to debating times being changed and dropped by the PSD to ensure the policies would go through.
There have been a couple of news items that may have been overlooked by many people , firstly Florin Cîțu, the vice president of the PNL (Liberal opposition) has claimed that Romania is in a state of financial crisis and that the Ministry of Finance is about to negotiate the second biggest loan in Romania’s history. He then said via social media: “Our strategic partners have reached a verdict: Romania is in crisis. A crisis that will reach its alert level mid-year. The Romanian crisis (as it is called in Davos) has three dimensions: the political and institutional crisis, the profound economic crisis generated by economic imbalances that are visible and easy to anticipate and the Romanian society’s moral crisis.”
The second piece of news is that the EU commissioner for regional development, Corina Crețu, warned on Tuesday after a meeting with new PM Viorica Dăncila that Romania is risking the loss of some very important EU funds if it doesn’t make major efforts to absorb the funds this year. The new government has until the 23rd February to come up with plans on how Romania can absorb EU funds much faster. Romania has a history for not taking EU money fast enough, and unfortunately the people and the country suffer, with poor infrastructure, poor hospitals etc. Romania has €20 Billion allocated yet only €1 Billion has been absorbed.
Well, that’s it for January. I truly hope that I can report better things for February.
Dean Edgar has been living the expat dream here in Romania for 11 years. He is General Manager of Moorcroft Services, a company dedicated to assisting foreigners to settle in Romania. They can help with visas, permits, company set-ups, car registration, house hunting, insurance, orientation tours and basically anything that a newcomer to Romania might need see www.moorcroft.ro for further details.
The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the writer, Dean Edgar, and not related to those of the publisher, OZB.